What Is Vegan Butter? A Guide to Vegan Butter Substitutes

The surge in demand for plant-based butter has provided vegans with choices aplenty.

Directly Above Shot Of Butter And Knife On Wooden Table
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If you pass through the butter aisle, you're likely to notice more and more plant-based butters on grocery store shelves. This is no passing trend: According to the Plant Based Foods Association, non-dairy butter sales rose 9% in 2021 while traditional dairy butter saw a 12% decline in sales.

Vegan food companies have responded to this shift in consumer demand by expanding their offerings and giving plant-based eaters many animal-free butter options to choose from—including various flavors, styles, textures, and bases.

Here, we explore the most popular ingredients in vegan butter, which brands best suit your vegan butter tastes, and how vegan butter’s carbon footprint stacks up against its dairy counterpart.

Ingredients in Vegan Butter

Bowl of roasted and salted cashew nuts on slate
Many vegan butters include nuts, such as cashews, for creaminess. Westend61 / Getty Images

Like other animal-free dairy products, vegan butter relies on plant-based oils to give it the texture and mouthfeel of dairy butter. In many cases, these oils are emulsified with water or non-dairy milk and lecithin, a common plant-based food texturizer. Nuts and other plant proteins are often added to turn the oil into a solid, spreadable butter. Add in some seasoning, and you’ve got all you need for a simple, tasty vegan butter.


Oil is typically the first ingredient in plant-based butter. High-fat plant oils popular in vegan butter include canola, coconut, avocado, sunflower, olive, and palm oil. 

Did You Know?

Many vegans express concern over the use of palm oil, even in completely plant-based foods, because of its connection to habitat destruction and deforestation in some of the world’s most biodiverse places. 


One popular method to give a creamy texture to the butter is to add some plant-based protein from nuts, beans, or peas. Although not as common in vegan butter as in vegan cheese, soy protein—in the form of powder or milk—may also appear in store-brand plant-based butter.


Plant-based lactic acid and citric acid often appear as natural preservatives in vegan butter and give the butter a hint of sour flavor. 

Natural and Artificial Flavors

Unless the variety indicates so, most vegan butters contain salt. Beyond that, each brand uses its own combination of plant-based spices as well as natural flavors and artificial flavors, both of which are vegan-friendly.  


For that classic butter yellow, many store-brand vegan butters use saffron-hued liquid beta-carotene—the plant-based precursor to Vitamin A found in red, yellow, and green foods—to color the butter. Others rely on turmeric or fruit and vegetables to achieve the hue.

Is Vegan Butter Sustainable? 

A person with a knife slicing through a block of butter for a sliced bread loaf.

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Compared to animal-based dairy, the plant-based ingredients used to make vegan butter use far fewer resources and release substantially fewer emissions, making it the more sustainable choice in the butter aisle. For vegans concerned with animal welfare and environmental vegans alike, plant-based butter just makes sense.

Still, it’s worth noting that nuts—one of the most common vegan butter ingredients—are one the most resource-intensive plant-based foods. A single California almond, for example, requires more than three gallons of water to grow. Those higher-carbon expenditure ingredients are countered by the use of beans, which have some of the smallest carbon footprints of all foods.

Vegan Butter Products 

As demand for animal-free dairy continues to grow, more innovative products that taste great and tread lightly on the planet will become available for purchase. For now, here are a few of our favorites.


Miyoko’s plant-based creamery products are even a hit outside the vegan crowd. The company now offers several varieties—a stick-style butter with a cashew base and whipped, spreadable butter with an oat milk base (comes in a single-use plastic tub).

  • European Style Cultured Vegan Butter Unsalted
  • European Style Cultured Vegan Butter A Hint of Sea Salt
  • Spreadable Cultured Vegan Oat Milk Butter

Trader Joe’s Vegan Buttery Spread

Using a blend of coconut, sunflower, and canola oil, Trader Joe’s Vegan Buttery Spread looks and cuts like an old-school stick of margarine down to its foil-lined wrapper. Try it on a toasted bagel or pancakes.


Free from palm oil, milkadamia’s Salted Butter Spread uses a blended base of regeneratively farmed macadamia nuts for their richly flavored vegan butter. This non-GMO plant-based butter comes in single-use plastic tubs.


Palm-, soy-, gluten-, and preservative-free, Violife uses faba bean protein to give their stick-style butters some heft. This European vegan food company adds B12 to all of its delicious vegan butters.

  • Plant Butter Salted
  • Plant Butter Unsalted


With its sustainably sourced palm oil and pea protein base, Flora offers consumers another creamy nut-free, allergen-free vegan butter option. Flora’s paper-wrapped stick butter is also non-GMO, gluten- and soy-free, with no artificial flavors and preservatives.

  • Unsalted Plant Butter
  • Salted Plant Butter 


Packaged in a sustainable glass jar, Monty’s Plant-Based Butter has four simple, organic ingredients: coconut oil, almond oil, organic cashews, and sea salt. The result? A thick, slightly sweet non-dairy delight. 


Nutiva’s delicious line of butter-flavored oils provides even more variety in the animal-free butter aisle, including vegan ghee—a form of clarified butter. With coconut and avocado oil as the bases, these work great for high-heat (over 400 degrees F) recipes and come in sustainable glass jars.

  • Organic Coconut Oil Buttery Flavor
  • Organic Plant-Based Ghee 

Melt Organic

All of Melt Organic’s vegan butters are plant-based, organic, and Rainforest Alliance-certified, meaning that the palm oil the company uses is sustainably sourced. Choose from sticks or plastic tubs for these nut-free allergy-friendly options. 

  • Probiotic Butter Made from Plants
  • Butter Made From Plants
  • Salted Butter Sticks
  • Unsalted Butter Sticks
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is vegan butter just margarine?

    Nope! Vegan butter differs from margarine in that it contains no dairy whatsoever. While margarine and vegan butter are both oil-based spreads by federal regulation, margarine can contain non-vegan ingredients like whey and slaughterhouse byproducts. 

  • Does vegan butter taste like real butter?

    As with all plant-based substitutes, some get closer to the taste of butter than others. Some people think vegan butter tastes more akin to margarine than butter, and even some omnivores prefer the taste of vegan butter to the real deal.

View Article Sources
  1. "2021 U.S. Retail Sales Data for the Plant-Based Food Industry." Plant Based Foods Association.

  2. "beta-Carotene Compound Summary." National Library of Medicine.

  3. Poore, J. and T. Nemecek. "Reducing Food's Environmental Impact Through Producers and Consumers." Science, vol. 360, vol. 6392, 2018, pp. 987-992., doi:10.1126/science.aaq021

  4. Fulton, Julian, et al. "Water-Indexed Benefits and Impacts of California Almonds." Ecological Indicators, vol. 96, pt. 1, 2019, pp. 711-717., doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.12.063